The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington will receive $25 million, thanks to an earmark tucked in the coronavirus relief package. As Dr. Natalie Hopkinson of Howard University points out, the Kennedy Center receives regular funding from taxpayers and private donations: all things small Black businesses don’t receive. Black businesses have always operated at a disadvantage and this latest round of legislation won’t save them.
Federal programs have always had a way of excluding Black people. From the G.I. Bill to the FHA/VA home loan guarantees to farming subsidies, the history is all too rich. With respect to the business world, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the single entity chartered to focus specifically on growth and development of non-white businesses. The agency has been underfunded and cut for years and under Obama, it continued to be gutted, to the point of being on life support. Of the $2.2 trillion in coronavirus relief, Congress allocated a mere $10 million to the MBDA. In contrast, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been given $350 billion to loan businesses up to $10 million, each.
An additional $10 billion is available for emergency grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses that need help with operating expenses. Nonprofits– including Black 501c3 organizations — can also apply for loans that can be forgiven, if they keep employees on the payroll. Yes, there are opportunities for Black organizations and entrepreneurs but in a nation with millions of small businesses on the brink of disaster, the pie is too small. In a country where discrimination and structural bias is the standard, it is unreasonable to believe that Congress or the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), for that matter, will be the salvation of Black people. The health and prosperity of Black people has always been the responsibility of Black people.
Yesterday we wrote on the danger of this moment: without radical action and commitment from Black people, Black businesses could disappear for the next generation. The federal government will not save Black businesses. Although well intentioned, the current legislative measures aimed at small businesses simply won’t stretch far enough and based on the history, likely won’t target Black entrepreneurs well. It’s up to Black people to save Black owned businesses.